“Excuse me, we had dinner here a few nights ago, and my son may have left a very small red dragon. Do you have a Lost & Found?”
The lovely woman behind the desk pulled a drawer open. “Sweater. Toy train. Car,” then she looked up, hope in her eyes, “Is it stuffed?”
Red Dragon! A dirty, slightly smelly, much loved beanbag red dragon. And thankfully for all concerned, stuffed.
Until today, I always wondered what led parents to return to stores and restaurants and vacation spots seeking lost toys. You told the kid not to bring it. You warned him he was going to lose it. He should learn his lesson. You can’t save him from every little loss – especially one he deserved – and you shouldn’t. Let him cry for a few minutes, and he will move on quicker than you think. It was, after all, only a stuffed animal.
That is what I thought before I saw Red Dragon again.
We were on vacation, of course. Red Dragon had gone missing three days before, and we were catching our flight home. No sign of Red Dragon even after cleaning out the beach house.
As predicted, my four year old cried for a few minutes when I told him I could not find him. And he moved on. It was my sister and I who refused to leave Red Dragon behind. And it was us – two cynical women in our forties – who teared up when Red Dragon was returned.
That dirty, slightly smelly, lucky-for-all-concerned stuffed Red Dragon.
Red Dragon represents my son’s toddlerhood – four years of charm and joy and warm snuggles and sweet giggles and no fear. Red Dragon comes downstairs every morning and peeks over the rim of my son’s cereal bowl. They share a love of Froot Loops, though my son likes the green ones and Red Dragon is non-discriminating.
Red Dragon is red because my son’s “yucky color”, as he called it before he could sound out the letter “l”, has always been red. He likes red baseball teams, red football teams, red ski boots and coats, red cars, red trains, red shoes and red dragons. Half of his t-shirts are red.
So losing Red Dragon as he approaches his fifth birthday would have felt like an end to something far more special than a little beanbag toy that smells bad.
My sister and I also realized these last two weeks that this may be our last vacation on the beach where we have been going every August for more than 30 years. We are leaving a lot behind on that beach – family traditions and memories of childhood, peaceful moments, my wedding day, a long history of Boggle and Scrabble games played, sunsets and starry nights looking for constellations and shooting stars.
We could not leave Red Dragon there too.
So there I was back at the restaurant. “Excuse me… my son may have left a very small red dragon…”